How To List a Friend as a Reference? And Is It a Good Idea To List Friends At All?

Two young academic women chat, one turning towards the other with a thoughtful expression. They appear to be long-time friends catching up. The woman facing her friend seems to be asking for a favor, perhaps requesting a reference for a job. Both women look engaged and focused on the conversation.

A recruiter or hiring manager receives applications from highly-qualified and accomplished candidates daily. So, how do they know if one person is better suited than another? They do so by speaking to the candidate’s references to understand more about them personally.

As a job candidate, it’s an excellent idea to list your friend as a reference. That’s because a friend will speak positively of you and highlight your best qualities. First, however, you must choose the right friend to help you. They should be willing and able to speak on your behalf and vouch for your strengths at work.

Choosing the right friend to list as a reference isn’t as straightforward as you might think. But don’t worry, though, as this guide will walk you through the entire process.

Let’s get to it!

Can You List A Friend As A Reference?

Yes, not only can you list your friend as a reference, it’s an excellent idea to do so. That’s because you can rely on a friend to say positive things about you when asked, all while highlighting your best qualities.

However, you must understand that only some friends can be helpful references. That’s because a recruiter might want to contact two types of references: professional and personal.

Let’s look at the differences between these two references and which kinds of friends suit each one.

1. Professional References

Professional references are the first and most common type of references you’ll have to prepare for recruiters. These people are familiar with you in professional contexts and can therefore vouch for your quality of work and work ethic.

Naturally, you’ll build close friendships with some people at your daily job. You work side-by-side for many hours a day and likely spend time together outside of work.

In that case, those friends are perfect to list as professional references.

Your closest friends from work are likely to support you when contacted by a recruiter who wants to learn more about what you’re like in a professional setting.

Other examples of a friend you can list as a professional reference include one that was your client in the past, someone you volunteered with, or even someone who was once your boss.

2. Personal References

Some job applications will require you to list personal references. That’s so recruiters can gain more insight into your personality outside of professional situations.

You can also list your friend as a reference in these situations. However, you’ll have more flexibility in choosing which friends to add to the list. They don’t necessarily have to be people you’ve worked with.

Instead, you can list friends who have known you for many years and are willing to highlight your positive traits to anyone who might ask. Friends like that will be incredibly valuable when you need a personal reference.

Anyone you’ve been friends with for many years who will say positive things about you can be a good choice as a personal reference.

How Do You List Your Friend As A Reference?

You must include a few important details when you list your friend as a reference, whether as a professional or personal reference. That way, the person contacting them will understand who they are and how they’re connected to you.

Here are the details you must include when listing your friend as a reference:

  • Name: First and foremost, you’ll want to list your friend’s full name when filling out any forms regarding job references. Remember to use their legal name and not a nickname that you might address them with casually.
  • Contact details: Next, you must include contact details that the recruiter can use to contact your reference. Typically, the two types of contact details are their phone number and email address. Remember that your friend might prefer being contacted through one or the other method, so check with them first.
  • Work information: Suppose you list a work friend as a professional reference. In that case, you must also include their work information. More specifically, you must include their job title and company name, so the person contacting them will understand precisely who they are.
  • Relationship: Last but certainly not least, the most important thing to list is your relationship with your reference. You’re both friends, but you must describe how you know each other. For example, if you’re listing your friend as a professional contact, explain your professional relationship (i.e. they were your boss, client, or colleague).

As you can see, more than just listing a name and a phone number is required when providing references during your job hunt. So, be sure to collect the necessary information from your friend well ahead of time to make the entire process much smoother for yourself.

A young academic man in glasses and a shirt sits at his desk, his gaze focused on something off-camera. He appears deep in thought, perhaps contemplating a job application and whether listing an old friend as a reference will increase his chances of landing his dream job. The man's posture is attentive and engaged, suggesting he is carefully weighing his options.

Which Friend Should You Ask To Be Your Reference?

Whether you’re asking someone professionally or personally, you must never forget that not everyone makes for a good reference. That’s why you should take some time to evaluate your friends before asking one of them to help you for this purpose.

Here are a few things to consider when choosing a friend to be your reference:

1. Will They Want To Be Your Reference In The First Place?

You must first consider whether or not the friend wants to be your reference. While it’s easy to assume that your friend would be more than willing to help you, the reality could be quite different.

There are many reasons why someone, even a close friend, wouldn’t want to be a reference for you. So, be sure to think about your choice before asking them to be your reference.

2. How Familiar Is That Friend With Your Work?

As you read earlier, you might need your friend to be a professional or personal reference. Seeing as they’re already your friend, they can surely provide a personal reference.

However, they might not be suitable as a professional reference if they haven’t interacted with you at work.

So, if you’re looking for a professional reference, choose a friend who can speak about your work life from first-hand experience.

3. Are You Sure They’ll Only Speak Positively Of You?

You can choose anyone you want to be your personal or professional reference. Naturally, everyone would like to choose someone who only spoke positively of you to the recruiter or hiring manager that calls them.

So, before you ask a friend to be your reference, you must ensure they only highlight your positive traits. After all, you don’t want a friend who will speak about your shortcomings and affect your job application.

4. Can You Rely On Them To Be Available?

Aside from speaking positively of you, the friend you choose to be a reference must also make themselves available to talk to the recruiter. So, ask yourself if you can rely on this person to pick up the phone and help you when the time comes.

For example, if your friend is constantly traveling to different time zones, they’ll likely be too challenging to contact directly. Instead, you’d be better off choosing someone who can answer the phone in the same time zone if the recruiter decides to call them.

5. Are You Willing To Do The Same For Them?

Lastly, before you ask a friend to be your reference, you must be willing to do the same for them.

Remember: when asking someone to be your reference, you need them to be available and only say good things about you. So, you should only ask a friend for whom you can do the same if they ever need you to be their reference in the future. That way, both of you benefit from helping each other out.

How To Ask A Friend To Be Your Reference?

Getting your friend to be your reference will require more work than just asking them the question. 

Instead, you should have a conversation with them that covers the following:

  • Ask if they’re interested: First, you should ask them if they’re genuinely interested in helping you by being a reference. Then, suppose they’re willing to help. In that case, you should confirm that they’re available when the recruiter or hiring manager might contact them.
  • Brief them on the job: Your friend might be interested immediately, or they might want to understand more about the process. It helps to brief them on the job you’re applying for and why you need them as a reference. You can also discuss their answers to potential questions about your work ethic, achievements, and anything else.
  • Preferred communication method: Your friend might prefer not to be contacted by phone. Instead, they might prefer communicating through email. When asking them to be your reference, you must discuss these things with your friend. That way, you can inform your recruiter or hiring manager to contact your reference using a specific method.
  • Thank them: Lastly, don’t forget to thank your friend in advance after they’ve vouched for you to the recruiter. The role of a reference could make or break your job application, so it’s nice to show them that you appreciate their help.

If everything goes well, you’ll have a friend prepared to vouch for you as your reference. However, getting a backup and following the same process you’ve read about above is always an excellent idea.

A backup ensures the hiring manager has someone to contact, even if the first one is unavailable.

Bottom line: Is It A Good Idea To List Your Friend As A Reference?

So, is it a good idea to list friends as references? Yes, it is an excellent idea to list your friend as a reference, as it increases your chances of getting a job.
Remember: if the recruiter is at a point where they’re calling the references you’ve provided, that means you’ve got a fighting chance at getting the job you’ve applied for. When that happens, having a carefully-chosen friend to vouch for you to the recruiter could get you past the finish line and into the role you’re pursuing.

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